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Parappa the Rapper could return via new business models or Vita


Parappa the Rapper hasn't been heard from since the PS2's Parappa the Rapper 2 -- unless you count the Japan-only cartoon, or the PSP port of the first game. However, creator Masaya Matsuura told me during a pre-TGS meeting that the flat, self-doubting puppy remains in his thoughts. "We always think about the possibility of remaking or rebuilding or making sequels," Matsuura said.

He told me that he prefers handheld platforms to consoles for rhythm games, because the built-in screens reduce the risk of latency between the controller input and the on-screen display. And thus the PlayStation Vita represents a "good chance" for him to revisit his signature series.

There is another factor that's been holding the series back recently. "It's not just content issues -- there's also business issues," NanaOn-Sha director of development Dewi Tanner explained. "How people pay for games has changed compared to 15 years ago. We're not sure that people would be willing to pay $50 for something with 5, 6 stages." While games like Rock Band allow developers to use premade, licensed music and build universal animations, in a game like Parappa "you have to build everything up for these character-based music games. Music, animations, settings, script, and so on."

Rather than attempt to compete with modern retail music games by releasing a Parappa at an unpalatable price, or artificially extending it ("I'm not sure a 20-hour Parappa experience would be that fun," Tanner noted. "It would take us like 30 years to make.") NanaOn-Sha is considering new models. "We feel now that there's so many different ways of purchasing games and evaluating games that maybe there'll be one that matches Parappa well," Tanner said.

This isn't the first time Parappa met with resistance from established models. Until shortly after its release, even people within Sony didn't consider the pioneering music game a "game." "They sold Parappa as not a game, just an interactive something," Matsuura said. "Their conservative knowledge about games was Mario, Sega something, Street Fighter -- they couldn't accept Parappa as a game." When it became a hit, Sony changed its collective mind. "Finally, the audience and market decided Parappa was a game, not Sony." Eventually, the first print run of about 30,000 copies sold out, and Sony continued supplying 2 or 3 thousand a week, until, after a year, it passed one million.

That past success makes it considerably easier to believe it could work this time.

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